Saturday, February 18, 2012

So, where did you go to school?

While on Facebook a couple of weeks ago I came across a posting by a college professor who is conducting a study on the impact of the high school question on non-St. Louisans. She is looking for St. Louis residents who were not born and raised here to answer some questions. I immediately posted a response on her Facebook status as I have many things I would love to tell her about my experiences. When we moved to St. Louis Jim and I were starting a whole new life - newly married, new jobs, new home, new city...all the major stress points in life except a death in the family. At a party we were asked where we went to school, and we replied, "Iowa State". After getting a blank stare, the guy said, "No, where did you go to high school?" When I answered, "Hoover High", the guy literally turned around and walked away. That was just our first experience with the St. Louis obsession about where you went to high school. Unfortunately it was not our last.

A few days after I posted I received a phone call from a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter, wanting to know if I would talk to her about my experiences. We had quite a chat, and I was candid about how it made us feel being new professionals to the St. Louis area. I never really thought that we would stay here more than a few years. But here we are 33 years later. The article by the reporter made the front page of the Post-Dispatch on February 7th. I made the first line of the article. It was a pretty interesting piece, and it has generated a LOT of conversation both on the website and on Facebook. People have very strong feelings about the question, both positive and negative. As I said, I don't object to anyone asking me the question - I object to the way I am treated after I answer it. If you decide after talking to me for a bit that I am not interesting and not worth your time, fine. But to dismiss me simply because I did not graduate from high school here? To me that is pretty shallow and narrow-minded. But perhaps that tells me that I don't want to waste my time getting to know you either. At any rate, the study should be interesting. I have already answered the first set of questions and have volunteered to be interviewed further. If you live here but are not from here and want to participate, let me know. I'll forward the survey to you.

I'll leave my best quotable quote with you - the one that did not end up in the newspaper. When the reporter asked me when things changed for my husband and me here, I told her after we started our family. Then people were more interested in where my kids were going to preschool than where I went to high school.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Heart Day

Jim and I usually do not do anything special for Valentine's Day, but I decided I was going to make the triple chocolate cupcakes that my cousin brought to the family reunion in Cincinnati this summer. She recently sent me the recipe, and it seemed fitting to make them today. You can never have too much chocolate in my opinion. The recipe was easy to follow, and I topped the cupcakes with the buttercream frosting recipe that she included. Oh my! The cupcakes are pretty amazing! I didn't even think about the fact that I would have 24 cupcakes - well, 22 now. I think I will send some of them to the office with Jim tomorrow. It probably would be nice to take a few to my hair stylist as well since he doesn't have a woman to bake for him. I want to save one for Katie, but I am not sure how good it will be by Saturday when she gets home from LA.

On another note, we just learned that the party hearty neighbors now have the idea to put a driveway in front of their house. Since our group of 9 houses is on a private alley, most of us do not have driveways. The garages are in the back, and that is part of the charm of the area. Consequently the front yards are very pretty with no concrete or asphalt blemishing the landscape. Apparently he intends to add two bays to his garage in the back, and then put on a new front porch with rooms above it. I guess the drive would come up to the new porch. It sounds like he is planning on putting it on the south side of their yard, which is good for us since we are to the north of him. He told the neighbor on the other side that city hall has already given him approval for the drive. I find this very hard to believe. First of all, we are in a national historic district, so pretty much anything you want to do has to go before a public hearing. Since a sign goes in your front yard announcing said hearing, I know we didn't miss it. Second, our city is very reluctant to give out new curb cuts, which he would need since there is no existing driveway. What is really sad is that one specimen tree (at least) would have to come down for him to do the driveway. Since Webster Groves is a designated Tree City USA, it is hard to get permission to remove living trees. So I am trying not to get too worked up about any of this yet. Things usually don't move too quickly at city hall. I just wish these people who want to live in houses that look like Chesterfield would just move to Chesterfield. Quit trying to make Webster Groves into something it is not - and doesn't wish to become.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Diamond Anniversary

This weekend we celebrated my mother and father-in-law's 60th wedding anniversary up in Charles City, Iowa. The actual anniversary is the 18th of this month, but there were conflicts next weekend. We attended 4:30 Mass at their church, and their priest was to offer a special blessing for them. This was the weekend that the Catholic Church celebrated all marriages, so that was a happy coincidence. As it turned out, their priest had a pacemaker put in so he was unable to officiate. A visiting priest stepped in to cover Mass. Before the service began, he approached a couple in the front pew and asked if they were the Woltermans. He must have wondered how they had lasted 60 years because there was a four foot space in between the two of them! We motioned to Father that the couple he was looking for was in the third pew. He explained that he would offer a blessing after communion.

It was really great when all the parishioners broke into applause as he asked them to step forward. What an accomplishment! After we finished with Mass we went to a restaurant in New Hampton for supper. Unfortunately they were understaffed both in number of employees as well as employee capabilities. The service was slow, only two meals came out and the rest followed probably 15 minutes later. My father-in-law didn't get what he ordered and several side dishes were incorrect. On top of that the food was only so-so. Very disappointing for such a special occasion. But it was nice to have all of us together for the weekend, even though our children were not able to attend. It takes a lot of living and loving to get to 60 years.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Cookie Redeux

As you can see, my experiment is not going very well. And this isn't even the worst example. I ate that one! The individual tube of gel frosting that I had purchased and used on the first cookie left me with a big blob of green icing in the center of the cookie. Digging through my cabinets I came up with a four pack of gel tubes. On this cookie I tried using the green out of this package. Even when pressing hard onto the cookie I was not getting the full logo design. I read some more on the Internet about this process, and subsequently learned that you should not use rubber stamps on food products. Apparently something leaches out of the rubber. Great!

For my last shot at this endeavor I mixed the gel with regular food coloring to thin it down a bit. Then I took a cue tip and spread the icing on the stamp. You can see that I got a little better results with this method. Jim said that people would get the general idea. Well, the general idea is not good enough. Why bother if you can't get a nice, clean image?

This is the back of the stamp, showing what the design should look like. Hey, maybe I should turn it over and use this side instead! Nah - I think my stamp is destined to be used on stationery in the future.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Designer Cookies

In December I went to a cookie decorating demonstration at Puddn'head Books. As you might guess, the author was on a tour promoting her new cookie decorating book. It was fun to watch her make such fabulously decorated cookies, but as I looked at all the supplies she had I had a flash back to my scrap-booking days. Having attended several scrap-booking parties, I came home with all kinds of tools, papers, stamps - you name it. I did make some really great scrapbooks with the materials, but when I discovered and realized I could have beautiful photo books in a fraction of the time and expense, I put my scrap-booking items away in a drawer. Somehow I could see cookie decorating going the same route.

But one idea did intrigue me. She took a sugar cookie that she had pre-frosted with royal icing and stamped it using a rubber stamp. You purchase a non-inked stamp pad and ink it up with gel icing. Then you dip in your stamp and you have a cute design on the cookie. You can then proceed to add decorations to the cookie if you want. For example, she had a little ice skater stamp and she just added a colored ball to the stocking cap and put a simple border around the perimeter of the cookie. Anyway, it got me thinking about how fun it would be to make cookies like that for SWT Design. So I sent off their logo to a rubber stamp making company, and I got it last month. I also picked up a non-inked stamp pad.

Today I decided to give this a whirl. At this point I am not concerned about the taste of the cookie or the look of the royal icing on the top of the cookie. I am more worried about how the logo is going to turn out because it has a lot of detail on it. So I just used a boxed cookie mix for my first go at this, and I prepared a small amount of royal icing. The icing was really no problem to make, surprisingly. It is recommended that you outline the cookie with a line of thicker royal icing to prevent the thinner version from running off the side of the cookie. But as I said, I am not concerned about that just yet. So my cookies are baked and I have put on the royal icing. The icing should ideally sit overnight to enable it to get hard. I'll have to wait until tomorrow to see how the stamping goes.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Another Death in the Family

Last Saturday my mother-in-law's sister died up in Minnesota. This was her last living sibling, and I can't begin to imagine how it would feel to be the only person left in your family. The private family wake was on Friday and the public wake and funeral were on Saturday. Jim was asked to be a pallbearer, and he was honored to take part. I did not travel with him for two reasons. First, the lady who stays with our dog has broken her foot and can't take care of any pets right now, and second we are traveling up to Iowa next weekend for my in-law's 60th wedding anniversary. I just couldn't see making two trips in a row, especially since I had to go to Cincinnati recently for my uncle's funeral.

This trip was a brutal one. Thursday he drove to Iowa, then Friday they drove to Minnesota, Saturday back to Iowa and today back to St. Louis. We did that same trip a couple summers ago for a family reunion and it was not pretty. I feel somewhat guilty that I didn't make the trip, but my body thanks me.

So that is two deaths quite close together. They say death comes in threes. Hopefully that does not end up to be the case.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Taking My Boobs Out to be Pressed

Today was that time of year again - time for the annual mammogram. For the past 10 years or so I have gone to Missouri Baptist for my fun and excitement. At that time I had found a lump in one of my breasts, and my friend's husband is a radiologist there. Fortunately it ended up that I just had cysts, but I feel better knowing that two radiologists read every single film there. (Guess it is probably not even called film anymore since the screening goes directly to a computer.) They used to give every woman a rose on her way out the door, and then it became a carnation. Today I got nothing. I guess the budget cut the flowers. Har, har.

My appointment was for 9:40 but I arrived at 9:20 since I never can be sure what the traffic will be doing. I had barely sat down from updating my paperwork when they called me to the back to change into a pink gown. After I changed clothes I was just tweeting that I was at Mo Bap for a mammogram and "I'm too sexy for my shirt..." and they called my name again. The boob bashing was done in record time, and I was back at my car by 9:43. Unbelievable!